Feature by: Jack Foley
KEIRA Knightley confesses to having been obsessed with Jane Austen's
classic novel, Pride & Prejudice, from an early age - so being
offered the role of Elizabeth Bennet was both a terrifying prospect
and a dream come true.
"When I first got the part I had women coming over to me
saying ‘you’re not Elizabeth Bennet, I am’,"
she explained, at a recent London press conference for the new
"I think that’s why the character is so loved, because
everybody who loves the book is Elizabeth Bennet. Or she’s
what you aspire to be, she’s funny, she’s witty and
intelligent. She’s a fully rounded and very much loved character.
"So it’s terrifying to actually take her on. But equally
because I’d been obsessed, I also believed that I was Elizabeth
Bennet so I was the right person for it."
Knightley gives one of her best performances as the feisty Ms
Bennet, who finds herself irresistibly drawn to the rich and hopelessly
arrogant Mr Darcy in Joe Wright's excellent version of the story.
Yet in spite of its classic origins, she believes the story is
timeless and that many of its themes remain relevant to contemporary
With this in mind, therefore, she
didn't view the film as just 'another romantic costume drama',
or the role as carrying any threat of being typecast.
"I think the reason that Pride & Prejudice, as a story,
has been so popular for so long is that fundamentally it doesn’t
matter when you set it.
"You can see that for Bridget Jones, or Bride & Prejudice.
For me, it’s about growing up, about making mistakes, it’s
about love and it’s about things that are as relevant today
"And it’s one of the most beautiful romantic stories
ever told. I think it has completely universal appeal, and it
doesn’t matter when you set it or when you’re watching
or reading it. You can’t not love it.
"As for the notion of being typecast, you’re not going
to read a script that has a fantastic story, a fantastic character
and a fantastic director and decide not to do it because it was
set 200 years ago. That would be a bit foolish.
"You can only go with what interests you and Pride &
Prejudice has been a book that I’ve been obsessed with since
I was about seven, so the opportunity to play a part like Elizabeth
Bennet was one that I couldn’t miss out on."
Related stories: Read
our verdict on the film
Keira Knightley - the
Matthew Macfadyen interview
Brenda Blethyn interview
Joe Wright interview
Watch clips from the film
Special feature: The
challenge of casting and shooting